Prior reports have indicated that the crude incidence of fatal occupational accidents in California has substantially declined since at least 1972. We tested the hypothesis that this observation was an artifact of demographic shifts in the workforce towards lower-risk age groups and industries. Review of worker's compensation data from 1972 to 1983 identified 2,483 fatal injuries among males. Crude rates declined by an average of 7.0% annually (p less than .005). Age and industry adjustment reduced this decline to 6.7% annually, but the trend was still significant (p less than .005). Thus, the decline in fatal injury rates is not artifactual and will require further study to explain. In a separate analysis, age-specific death rates were found to follow a bimodal pattern in most industries with the highest rates observed at the extremes of age. These results conflict with those of several previous studies. However, these studies did not adjust for the prevalence of part-time work schedules among younger employees.